Dr. Willie Stewart has confirmed that the brain of Nobby Stiles was damaged due to the continuous heading of the ball during his football career.
Nobby Stiles died in October aged 78 after a long battle with dementia. The death of the former Manchester United and England international coupled with the death of ex-Three Lions star Jack Charlton after being diagnosed with dementia sparked the debate about the link between brain damage and the heading of the ball.
Another English football legend Sir Bobby Charlton has also been diagnosed with dementia which has generated a lot of interest in the disease among footballers.
The trend has forced the English FA to issue an advisory to football clubs in England to redefine their training system in such a way that it would not involve too much heading of the ball.
It has also brought the adoption of the concussion substitution which is set to commence in England in January 2021, all to safeguard the mental health of footballers.
In the case of Nobby Stiles, the family of the 1966 FIFA World Cup winner agreed to donate his brain to Dr. Willie Stewart for it to be analyzed to find out whether his brain damage has anything to do with the heading of the ball.
The family confirmed to Daily Mail that the doctor has given the family the result of the field study and the result confirmed that Nobby Stiles’ brain was damaged due to the impact of the ball.
“He told us that the damage to my dad’s brain was very severe and could only be explained by him heading the ball over the sustained period of his career”, Nobby Stiles’ son John Stiles said.
“It confirmed what he had believed for a long time.
“My mother’s exact words when we suggested donating the brain were, ‘if it stops one person suffering the terrible torment of dementia that he went through, it’s worth doing’.”
This confirms the October 2019 study which says footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die of the neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the population.
On his part, Dr. Stewart told Daily Mail that “CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy – is a progressive degenerative disease only found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.”
“Brain injury and head impacts are the only recognized risk factors”, he added. “We don’t find CTE in patients with dementia unless there is a story of brain injury or head impacts.
“That’s why we see it in people who play football and rugby, and who box. The common theme is the head impact.
“With Nobby, the CTE was widespread throughout and at a high stage. He presented a story that was entirely typical of someone with CTE. All of the pathologies you would expect to see were there.”